Monday, February 1, 2016

The Flowers of a Six-Week Life

by Editor-in-Chief Mary Bast

One of the many delights of this role is being on the map with publishers. Recently, New Michigan Press sent me a copy of Stephanie Dickinson's chapbook Heat: An Interview with Jean Seberg. Curious about this "lyrically charged novella," I dove in, and within minutes was flat-out in love. 

"Yours is exactly the quality of writing we want for Bacopa Literary Review," I wrote to the author, "especially our poetry section where we invite mixed forms. Noting from your web site the extent of your publishing history, it's probably naive of me to ask if you'd have something for Bacopa, but may I quote from Heat in the Editors' Blog? A chapter? A page? A paragraph? A sentence?"

Stephanie responded within a few days: "Dear Mary, Thank you for your generous email. I read the blog link you included and especially loved this paragraph.
Few writers can define this eccentric genre. At the same time, the use of sentences as opposed to broken lines does change the rhythm and oral read of any poem, and the use of sentence structure in dense or loose narrative elicits a different feel and expectation to the reader.
"And then David Lehman's use of the word 'enchantment' to describe the prose poem. Wonderful! You may quote as much as you like from Heat."

So, with great pleasure I offer pages 3-4 of Heat ("An Imaginatively Imaginary Interview with Actress Jean Seberg"), though every section is equally quotable:
Q. Having lived in Iowa, I know there's no shortage of pretty girls, but few ever claimed an international reputation. Like many others, I wonder if you had been only half as beautiful would you have married, raised children, and been a housewife and not an actress? 

SEBERG: I don't claim anything not even a pretty face. The Iowa River schooled me, although I was already bigger than the place I'm from. At age four, my father brought me here to watch bluegill and carp bite the hook's surprise. The rocks oozed heat. Bass trees hung heavily with vines and the current tugged the chocolate sludge. In water they fought the line but once on land, the knife glinting its cornsilk light, they gave up. Where can we swim? Their wide-open sun-scalded eyes began to die. I clenched my fists. Throw them back! The fisherman laughed and cut. Slit open, the bluegill's petal lungs still pumped. Tiny, translucent clouds of river weather. At sixteen, I lived and breathed for Photoplay, and you couldn't drag me to the cast and reel. The sneer on Marlon Brando's lip I'd trace. Half as beautiful I wouldn't have known the Hell that comes from having a public. Fans. Or that I'd live Brando's words, "Success on the screen usually means failure as a human being." If someone had offered my mother pink Saturn ringed by mysterious meteors and moons, she'd still have chosen to make four babies and set the dinner table. Half as beautiful, a quarter as beautiful, I'd still not settle for housewifery in Marshalltown's green corn desert. I was always drawn to metamorphosis. The four stages of a butterfly. From egg to pupa to chrysalis to flight. I supped the flowers of a six-week life.

Bacopa Literary Review 2017 submissions will open on April 1

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful.
    Takes me to the creek I walked as a boy.
    The one stormy day that I knew my grandfather died.
    And my brother fell in to the crown of his hat.
    And Uncle Stan save him to die another day.
    Both of them.